Tag Archives: airlines

The “Passive-Aggressive” Note Thing & Just How Problematic It Is

TRIGGER WARNING for conversations and content about rape culture and sexual violence and intimidation.

In the midst of the Thanksgiving gratitude Facebook posts, reminders that the holiday is an aggrandizement of genocide against Native Americans, and pictures of turkeys, a little story about airline travelers made the viralways on social media. It detailed the hostilities between a producer of The Bachelor and a private citizen in seat 7A as their flight, delayed, sat on the tarmac.

Elan Gale, the Hollywood producer, opened with a tweet that seemed humorous at first:

screen capture of Elan Gale tweet

It’s sarcastic and not particularly sensitive, but it goes to the frustrations and anxieties that many of us have when traveling in an airline system that hasn’t been passenger-focused in a long time. But thinking about it more carefully, there are only some people who can afford to travel by air. Some others of us either take the bus or the train, drive a shorter distance that doesn’t break our budget, or stay home. So already this is a conversation between relatively entitled people.  Read More…

Throat Afire

It never fails that when I need to be somewhere or do something especially important, I catch a virus. There was that time, after being unemployed for two years, that I was supposed to go to Census-taker training, but got Susanne’s stomach bug instead. I’ve given presentations with 100-degree fevers, and taken the SAT while the chicken pox was still scabbed all over my body. So nobody in my household was surprised when I finally caught Emile’s cold from last week, two days before flying out to LA for the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Emerging Writer’s Workshop.

At first it was just a tickle in my throat—maybe Wednesday afternoon or so. By Thursday night, in which I had go to my first board meeting as a new director for a former prisoner rehabilitation nonprofit, I was exhausted. It wasn’t as bad as that 2003 bout with mononucleosis (which kept me from driving to my sister’s house for Christmas that year, because timing is everything), but I felt weak and feverish. My throat emanated pain and itchiness. The back of my sinus cavity cranked up its production of disgustingness. I clammed my way through the meeting and then made conversation with some impromptu house guests who were spending the night with us. Please, I begged the anonymous virus, get out of here in the next 24 hours. I’ve got a big trip, okay? Read More…

To Jeff Smisek, CEO of United Airlines

TO: Jeff Smisek, CEO United Airlines

FROM: Everett Maroon, Mileage Plus Member XXXXXXX

DATE: 9/4/2012

RE: Series of poor service incidents from UA Staff

Please let me begin by saying that I appreciate the challenges present for commercial air carriers in the United States today. Your recent merger announcement with Continental is of course predicated in part on finding efficiencies in both business models and improving the destinations and flight coverage for passengers overall. I can’t imagine what pressure your business must be under regarding the logisitics of such a large merger of corporate climates, staff, benefits packages, strategies for future development, and heck, the terrible cost of jet fuel these days.

Because of these oft-reported limitations and tensions, I have been willing to put up with a certain level and number of inconveniences as a frequent traveler–the disappearance of the in-flight meal (they weren’t very good anyway), and later, of the small bag of pretzels, the addition of checked bag fees, and the changing, increasingly invasive security process, which I understand is not under the control of the airlines. Along with these shifts I’ve seen consequences for how I travel–I head to the airport much earlier than before, I plan for snacks ahead of time, I bring only certain bags that are within weight limits or will fit in such-and-such an overhead compartment. I have rejiggered my traveling strategy because now I have a 1-year-old child, and I acknowledge that my customer experience expectations have evolved because of all of these changes from the airlines, the world we live in, and my personal life. Read More…

Tips for Traveling Based Solely on My Last Experience

flight attendants wavingThis is my second head cold in a month, so I’ve dipped into our hard-to-acquire stash of Sudafed, which I know from Breaking Bad is the item purchased by “smurfs” to make crystal meth. Thank you, AMC, for expanding my culture reference set. Based on when my left tonsil puffed up like a blowfish, I figure I was exposed to whatever virus this is on one of the three plane rides over to the East Coast. It could have been the 3-year-old two rows behind me who practiced his raspberries for 45 minutes. Or the lanky guy who slept next to me for 4 hours and insisted on sticking his feet under the seat in front of me (I thought I was the fat space hog). Maybe a flight attendant passed it to me along with my half-ounce of cracker party mix, who knows? But if I could relive the experience that day, I would do the following, and I’ll note right here that I did know these things before May 17, 2012.

1. Bring hand sanitizer with you. You may not have time to wash up in the airport rest room between flights, and you’ll probably need it more frequently than every three hours, especially if it’s during flu season. You may even be tempted to splash some on your neck, like cologne. This is not necessarily a bad idea. Read More…

Cookies from hell

First, a brief round up of my first writer’s conference:

  • One request for a partial and one request for my book proposal, both for the memoir
  • One request for a partial of my science fiction satire
  • Several new writer contacts—mostly sci fi and fantasy folks, who duh, are the best
  • One silly picture of myself shown on a screen in front of everyone
  • Many, many fantastic conversations about writing and creating
  • At least half a dozen drinks at the bar—they had good hefeweisen, for which I am always a sucker
  • Two great dinners in Seattle—Ethiopian and sushi whore in West Seattle
  • Two ridiculous airline experiences

I’d grumbled and snarked about the demise of airline service here and over on I Fry Mine in Butter, and apparently the universe or something took notice, because wow, getting back to Detroit from Seattle was a fiasco.

The initial flight out of Seattle, a red-eye at 1AM was bad enough—taking a red-eye, I knew, would throw off my internal clock, because it has every time before—but I also had a connecting flight out of Memphis. I’d been okay with this at booking because I had a nonstop to Seattle for my outbound flight, and I’m not choosy in this brave new world of airline service. Choosy is something I reserve for potato chip flavors at the Target Superstore.

Memphis’ airport has seen better, happier, less stinky days. I had to really eyeball which chair I sat in as some had lost a considerable percentage of their stuffing to some other quadrant of the facility. I figure there’s a room in the basement somewhere with bags of chair fluff. I just need to sort out why. I made my way to a Starbucks and procured a mocha and a cheese danish because I was pretending it was breakfast time. It was, in fact, 7:20AM local time, but my stomach didn’t know that, so I gave it some cues. Here, stomach, coffee. Here, stomach, danish!

Busying myself in my ebook—Patricia Cornwell’s latest, and she sounds like a cranky old lady writer these days—I did not initially notice that the monitor displaying my departure time had changed. 9:45 quietly became 10:20. At some point I lifted my head, probably because I saw movement on my horizon, triggering the lizard portion of my brain to make sure there weren’t any predators on the savanna. Fortunately, there weren’t, but I did see the slippage in my takeoff time. I called my in-law’s house and left a message alerting them to the delay, and went back to my book. I wasn’t too concerned about a small delay, but I really needed to figure out who was after Kay Scarpetta.

At the next gate, a flight to Minneapolis, people starting piling up. I could tell it was a big and full plane. Then the steward made a strange announcement:

“So folks, we’re going to have  a delay here as we have a mechanical issue with this flight. We need a really big, strong spring for the tail rudder. I’m sure you remember that flight that crashed a few years ago because of the tail. So we take these things seriously. Unfortunately the part needs to be flown into Memphis here. We’ll get you all moving as soon as we can. You can scan your boarding passes over here to receive a $6 breakfast voucher from Delta for any food vendor here in the airport.”

Did someone just say flight and crash in the same sentence? Did someone from an airline just say flight and crash? That’s like yelling “bomb!” in the security line!

I looked at the monitor for the flight. Originally scheduled: 8AM. Now expected: 4PM. I noticed as a wave of uneasy crashed over me and my ebook.

Well, something was off with my flight, too. We still weren’t boarding, even though I heard one employee tell another customer that we’d leave by 10:10. My phone buzzed with a text from Susanne: Delta Web site says you’re not due to depart until 11.

Those lying bastards. Now I was annoyed, and I had a good amount of caffeine from my mocha to fuel my anger. I asked the woman at the counter how we were leaving at 10:20 if it was 10AM and we had no plane at the gate? She gave me an uneven frown, as if both halves of her brain were in conflict: this guy is pissing me off, must be nice to customers. I felt badly for causing her distress. I blamed my Starbucks mocha.

Around 11 we actually got on the plane, and then the story takes a downturn. I was seated next to the most talkative, no boundaries, yammery guy I’ve ever had the fortune to sit next to. He just wanted to know my whole life story, this guy. It was one of those times when I considered revealing The Trans just to see if it could shut down any more conversation, but I feared he would just explode with 20,000 questions I didn’t feel like answering. For those of the non-trans status, questions no transgender person wants to answer include the following:

  • What was your name before?
  • What’s it like to see things from the other side?
  • Did you get surgery?
  • How did your family deal with it?
  • Quick, let’s go to the rest room so I can see your winky!

Okay, that last one isn’t a question, though it is a kind of request, I suppose. And yes, that last one has been asked of me. See, this is why my memoir needs to find an agent and a publisher, because the world needs to know that people make these crazy remarks! Notice how I went from memoir to publisher to world? That was nice, right?

Mr. Never Stop Talking rattled on for so long that I hardly noticed we’d been on the tarmac for a while, but sure enough, they hadn’t closed the boarding door and it was 11:30. Still on plane, at gate, I texted Susanne, because her drive to the airport and this flight took about the same time. I didn’t want her hanging out at the airport if I was delayed. Which, okay, I was already significantly delayed. I’d originally been scheduled to land at 12:15.

Delta Web site says you’re not departing until 12:30, she texted back. And here the pilot had just announced we’d be delayed another 5 minutes. Five minutes my ass. Five minutes in sea tortoise time. The stewards came down the aisle with glasses of water for us. Thanks, Delta.

Twelve-thirty came and went. We were having some kind of issue with the fuel line to the plane. Terrific. One rudderless crashing wonder to Minneapolis, and one exploding bombshell to Detroit. How’s that merger working out for you, Northwest?

They asked us to open up our air vents and close our windows to keep it cool inside. Mr. Talky Talk went on about people getting stranded on the tarmac for four hours just the day before. Sheesh, Mr. Never Shuts Up was just one happy story after another.

At some time after 1, way way way later that 9:45AM, we took off with the fuel line attached. Just kidding. We took of all fixed up, and I was confident that Susanne knew exactly when to leave for Detroit.

In the air they did the usual beverage service, only this time they gave us the can of soda and not just the plastic cup. I asked for the accompanying cookies.

“Oh, we’re out of cookies.” Three hours at the gate and nobody could stock the cookies?

“Of course you are.”

“Just for that,” he said, “I’m going to find you some cookies.”

“Great,” I said. I presumed this meant he’d find some crumbly bits ground into the carpet from the last 3-year-old’s temper tantrum and press them into my palm with a smile. But 20 minutes later, he handed me a package of the now-infamous Biscoff.

“Lucky you,” said the woman across the aisle from me, who’d been reading at a copy of Laura Bush’s memoir for the last hour.

“I can share,” I said, breaking one cookie in half. I handed her one piece and Motormouth to My Left the other half.

“Wow, it’s kind of cinnamony,” he said, still chewing. “You think that’s cinnamon in there?”

“Yup,” I said.

“That is a damn good cookie.”

“It’s the best thing about Delta,” I said, and I heard the steward sniff, displeased. “After their amazing staff, of course.”

“Of course,” said the steward.

I slept for four hours as soon as I got back home. My stomach is still not sure what the hell time it is.

Fly the Not Free Skies

Airplane movie stillThis was originally posted over at I Fry Mine in Butter.

Once upon a time flying was fun. Planes seemed shiny and glamorous, travelers dressed up, and nobody measured carryon bags with scales. Totally unthinkable were long lines at security and computers sniffing for explosive residue. Mottos like “fly the friendly skies” are long long gone.

It isn’t that I miss airline food, food being a rather broad category when it comes to what was served on airlines. I was one of those folks who chose to bring on his own meals, much like Hannibal lecture, minus the fried human brains. But at least one received a full can of soda. Not anymore. Now I get a plastic cup of semi-fizzy liquid and a piece of the iceberg that sank Titanic.

This is the first flight I’ve been on to offer wifi,and no sooner do 67 stickers adorn the inside and outside of the plane—so the birds can use it, I guess—than they’re charging for it, $13 a flight. That seems a little triskaidekaphilic to me. Why thumb your nose at Lady Luck, airlines?

So it’s one more luxury I won’t be getting, like pay per view on DirecTV or $10 beer in flight. But don’t call it for my convenience, that’s just disingenuous. If it were really for my convenience it would be free or $1. There are 30 rows of seats on this flight; $13 from each of us on multiple flights a day more than buys the modem in what, the first month? I know not everyone will want the service, but surely the price point was set to earn profit.

eastern airline wingsI remember as a kid getting to see the cockpit during flight and I completely understand why that’s not possible anymore. Yet can’t we give kids those stupid plastic wing pins? Those were cool. Kids don’t get crap these days, and it’s sad. Yes, I know times are tough for the airlines. We all cram our bags into the overhead compartments rather than shell out an extra $50 round trip for checking them. And then the air stewards get on the PA system and tell us there’s not enough room in the overheads so we need to be good traveling neighbors and put our smaller carryons under the seat in front of us. I’ve even had a steward hand me my briefcase after I’ve checked my suitcase, and that really got under my skin. If I’ve paid $25 to check the suitcase, I feel like I just paid for leg room, so don’t tell me to cram anything under the seat in front of me.

Also, I don’t get that money back when they lose my bags, which has happened more than a couple of times. It just can’t be that saving 3 ounces of soda per traveler is more important than customers feeling they’re not getting ripped off. I know, I know, I should be happy that I’m flying through the air on a bunch of metal and plastic. I think I just want to feel like I’m being treated a few rungs above chattel.

And yet, there’s that small cup of soda in front of me. I wonder how long I can make it last on this four and a half hour flight.

Oh my God, I think I’ve become a grumpy old man.

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